If anyone were to ask me what is my most prized possession, I would say my college degree. My parents were immigrants from what used to be Yugoslavia. They didn’t expect me to go to college and didn’t have the money to help me. I worked as a lifeguard for years and saved all my money, and I got some scholarships. Still, it was difficult financially, so I finished college in three years instead of four. Because Iknew that I’d need to be able to find a job, I chose my major after reading an article that listed accounting as one of the top professions for new graduates. It turned out to be a good match.

This industry has a tradition of men in coveralls and hardhats out in the oilfields or on project sites. There aren’t a lot of women executives in business or technical positions, although that’s changing. I’m Halliburton’s first female head of investor relations, and I’m proud of that. But I’m convinced that they offered me the position because, after looking at all the candidates, men and women, they concluded that I was the best person for the job. And that’s the way I want it. I want to be seen as someone who’s made it because of talent and hard work, not because I’m a woman.

It’s been a stretch. My previous job was assistant controller, so the financial part of investor relations was easy for me. However, I realized right away I needed to understand the operations—drill bits and pressure pumping and liquefied natural gas. Fortunately, I’m the type of person who loves a challenge, and when I set a goal I usually achieve it. Ialso have great mentors hereat Halliburton and a lot of support—both at work and at home.

If there is just one piece of advice I’d pass along to other women in business, it’s to be careful how you treat people. It sounds simple, but I’ve found that it’s often the simplest things that hold the greatest truth. I spent the first 15 years of my career at one of the big accounting firms. In public accounting it’s “up or out,” so turnover was a fact of life. It was very likely that some of my coworkers who left the firmmight one day be my clients or my neighbors. The world is really very small. It’s important to treat people well that you meet along the way because it’s likely you’ll see them again.